Awards Database

Cottrell Scholar Awards - 2017

Michelle L. Kovarik

Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Trinity College

Biological Noisiness of Reactive Oxygen Species in Dictyostelium Discoideum

“Biological noise” refers to the puzzling random variability that can occur within a group of similar cells. This noise can affect how cells respond when they are exposed to chemicals or other forms of stress.

Michelle L. Kovarik, chemistry, Trinity College, says recent research suggests that some of these variations may be adaptive – that is, they may ultimately help a specific population of cells to survive in a stressful environment.

Kovarik has received a Cottrell Scholar Award from Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) to better understand the factors affecting noise levels in oxidative stress in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, a species of soil-living amoeba commonly referred to as slime mold. Oxidative stress refers to an imbalance between the production of harmful free radicals and the ability of an organism to counter their harmful effects.

Kovarik and her associates will compare noise levels resulting from cells burning glucose for fuel as well as cells exposed to various peroxide formulas. “The results will contribute to a richer understanding of biological noise and its role in stress response,” she said.

There is also an education component to the Cottrell Scholar Award. Kovarik said she will use some of the funding to develop a set of comprehensive materials for teaching the primary literature in the analytical chemistry curriculum. “These literature activities are part of my goal of incorporating engaged student learning throughout the classroom and laboratory,” she said.


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